Children's crusade 2.0

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
31 August, 2023

In a courageous move, the New Zealand Government introduced a bill that would allow 16-year-olds to vote in local elections.  

Yes, you read that right: 16. Because if Jesus had had a say in New Zealand politics, he would proclaim, “Let the little children come to the ballot box, for theirs is the kingdom of representative democracy.” 

Only fools would criticise our government for being childish. Because, as history shows us, children are capable of remarkable things. 

We need only remember Joan of Arc. By the tender age of 17, she was leading armies and changing the course of French history. Had she been a New Zealander today, under the current voting age, her talents would have been squandered on TikTok. 

Or consider the Children’s Crusade of 1212. Led by ambitious youngsters, this crusade may not have been a success but it proved that youth should not be shackled by ageist legislation. If a 12-year-old could attempt to retake Jerusalem, why can’t a 16-year-old vote on rubbish collection in Auckland? 

And, of course, there is Mozart. Composing music at five, imagine what he could have achieved as a city councillor at 16. He would probably have composed a symphony solely to combat urban noise pollution. 

All that said let us not get carried away with these intoxicating examples of youthful achievement. There are some downsides too, because this bill could have unforeseen consequences.  

After all, 16-year-olds may be mature enough to decide the future of their local community, but are they mature enough to deal with the local council’s perpetual ineptitude? And how could they face the existential dread of a poorly maintained local park or the horror of delayed roadworks? 

The truth is our children will grow up soon enough.  

The joys of youth, like being largely irresponsible and not having to support themselves, are fleeting. These joys will never come back unless they later become a backbench MP. 

So, why thrust upon children the adult burdens of civic responsibilities? Let them be children for a bit longer before they inherit the tiresome task of dealing with, say, the government. 

The move to lower the voting age to 16 is an ambitious endeavour, steeped in wisdom and with many historic precedents of children doing remarkable things.  

But perhaps, just perhaps, we should leave children to enjoy their youth.  

Because rest assured, the mundanity of adult responsibilities, such as fighting with your local council, will catch up to them soon enough. 

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